Local Government and Politics, News, Weather

Earthquake experts explain rumbles

This article was published 1 year(s) and 9 month(s) ago.

Earthquake researcher and Boston College professor Dr. John Ebel speaks at a public forum Wednesday night at City Hall in Peabody, which has experienced two verified earthquakes in the last six months. (Alena Kuzub)

PEABODY ― Residents descended upon City Hall Wednesday night to figure out what is shaking in the Tanner City. 

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. held a public forum at the Wiggin Auditorium to share information regarding the recent earthquakes that have occurred in Peabody. The mayor was joined by Boston College Professor of Geophysics and consultant Dr. John Ebel, as well as a representative of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), who provided an overview and answered questions from residents. The USGS monitors and reports on earthquakes, assesses earthquake impacts and hazards, and conducts targeted research on the causes and effects of earthquakes.

Prior to Dr. Ebel speaking, Bettencourt told the public that the city had conducted an internal investigation that included sending out bomb-sniffing dogs and drones to search for explosive devices throughout the city.

Residents found out that the recent earthquakes in the city are a natural phenomenon ― and they have a name.

Ebel said Peabody is currently dealing with an earthquake swarm. 

In the forum, he said that what Peabody is going through isn’t all that uncommon; there have been so many earthquakes in New England’s history that he actually wrote a book about them. In recent years ― as early as the mid 2010s ― states such as Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine have dealt with swarms of earthquakes. Similar to Peabody, the swarm in Connecticut occurred in an area that had no prior earthquake activity. 

“It’s not an everyday occurrence but it’s not that unusual,” Ebel said. 

Ebel also added that it’s quite possible that Peabody is experiencing seismic activity that can’t be detected by humans. In Connecticut, more than 100 instances of seismic activity were recorded in the span of a few months, thanks to seismic equipment placed in the affected areas.

While some might associate geological fault lines with earthquake activities, Ebel told the audience that a fault doesn’t have to exist prior to the earthquake. This means that some earthquakes create new faults.

“When I look at the Earth, I don’t just say ‘well, where’s the nearest fault because that tells me about the earthquakes because it doesn’t,” said Ebel. “It might be brand-new cracks that are forming that do not have anything to do with the old faults that were in the rock.”

Ebel went on to say that he can’t pinpoint how long the swarm will last and if the earthquakes could get larger. Still, he said, there is a 5 percent chance that there will be a 2.0- to 3.0-magnitude earthquake and a less than 1 percent chance that these earthquakes will get larger than 5.0 on the Richter Scale. 

Residents had a chance to ask Ebel questions during the forum, as they searched for more answers about what is going on in the city. One resident asked if the seismic activity could be related to a nearby quarry in West Peabody and the Boston College professor said that they have been unable to find a correlation.

“Perhaps, however, if they were related to the quarry I would not expect the events to be felt and heard, say here in the center of Peabody, but not being heard and felt near the quarry,” Eben said.

Candidate for Councilor-at-Large Bukia Chalvire inquired about the city sharing information about disaster preparedness, especially for elderly Peabody residents, and also inquired about where residents can seek shelter in case of emergency. 

At the end of the forum, Bettencourt told the public that based on the suggestion from Chalvire, the city will be working on getting a pamphlet with more information out to residents. He also told the public that the city is working on getting portable seismic equipment to try and pin down where the incidents are occurring.

More Stories From Peabody